Since Better Call Saul takes place six years before we ever meet Walter White, there’s no reason that Vince Gilligan’s prequel can’t last as long as Breaking Bad‘s five seasons (and if these long-running spinoffs are any indication, Better Call Saul could go the full six). Here’s a look at some of TV’s most successful spinoffs which ran at least as long — if not longer — than their origin series.
The origin show: Maude (1972-1978), 6 Seasons
A spinoff itself (Maude was Edith Bunker’s cousin on All in the Family), Maude starred Bea Arthur as an upper-middle class liberal feminist living with her fourth husband.
The spinoff: Good Times, (1974-1979): 6 Seasons
The Evans family lived in the projects of inner city Chicago, “keeping their head above water.”
How did it become a spinoff? Esther Rolle played Maude’s housekeeper, Mrs. Evans, and she proved to be such a popular character that she was given her own series. However, Maude never really addressed her departure and the two shows take place in different cities.
What made it so successful? Jimmy’s catchphrase “Dy-no-mite!” became a pop culture phenomenon, changing the focus of the show from the struggles of Esther and her husband to the antics of the Evans children — and TV audiences followed right after them.
The origin show: Liquid Television (1991-1994), 3 Seasons
MTV’s showcase of animated shorts and music bites, Liquid TV was a cult fave in the ’90s.
The spinoff: Beavis and Butt-head, (1993-1997, 2011): 6 Seasons
Two cartoon high-school flunkies critiqued live-action music videos which generally were either “cool” or “sucked.”
How did it become a spinoff? As part of Liquid TV‘s animated slate that also included Aeon Flux, Beavis and Butt-Head spun into its own series when MTV asked creator Mike Judge, who did both voices, to develop his rock-loving losers into a series of 25-minute episodes.
What made it so successful? At the time, Beavis and Butt-Head was considered an edgy cartoon and although the two protagonists were a couple of idiots, the way in which Judge captured their idiocy was sharp and funny.
The origin show: The Golden Girls (1985-1992), 7 Seasons
Blanche, Rose, Dorothy, and her mother Sophia, all single after years of marriage, became housemates, sharing friendship, laughs, and the trials of single senior life.
The spinoff: Empty Nest, (1988-1995): 7 Seasons
Dr. Harry Weston was a pediatrician widower living in Miami with two of his three adult daughters who continually tried to find their life partners and leave home.
How did it become a spinoff? The Westons were The Golden Girls‘ neighbors. Stars of The Golden Girls made various cameo appearances on the spinoff and, after the end of the origin show (and the end of additional spinoff The Golden Palace), Estelle Getty joined the permanent cast of Empty Nest.
What made it so successful? The well-played comedic irony was that Richard Mulligan’s character should have been living in an empty nest, but his grown daughters wanted to find themselves a couple of men before they blew the coop. David Leisure, then of “Joe Isuzu” fame, was a fan favorite as smarmy neighbor Charley Dietz.
The origin show: Soap (1977-1981), 4 Seasons
The trials and tribulations of sisters Jessica Tate (Katherine Helmond) and Mary Campbell (Cathryn Damon) and their families were chronicled in a comedic sendup of the soap opera genre.
The spinoff: Benson, (1979-1986): 7 Seasons
Benson DuBois (Robert Guillaume) was hired to run the Governor’s mansion but may as well have been running the state itself.
How did it become a spinoff? After season two, Benson left the Tates to work for Jessica’s cousin — who just happened to be the Governor.
What made it so successful? Guillaume’s charm and ability to be the smartest guy in the room translated well to his own vehicle, and the ensemble cast came together to create a winning comedic combination.
The origin show: Diff’rent Strokes (1978-1986), 8 Seasons
Wealthy Manhattan widower Philip Drummond adopted the two sons of his deceased maid from Harlem.
The spinoff: The Facts of Life, (1979-1988): 9 Seasons
Boarding school housemother Edna Garrett tended to schoolgirls while they grew into young (and very funny) women.
How did it become a spinoff? In the final episode of Diff’rent Strokes season one, the Drummond’s maid, Mrs. Garrett, did a stint sewing costumes for the school play at East Lake School for Girls, after which she was asked to work at the school permanently.
What made it so successful? The personality clash between Jo Polniaczek (Nancy McKeon) and rich girl Blair Warner (Lisa Whelchel) contributed greatly to the show’s success, along with its quippy, witty dialogue. And, though often doling out morality plots, the characters were always funny and likable (plus, having one of TV’s catchiest theme songs certainly didn’t hurt either).
The origin show: Perfect Strangers (1986-1993), 8 Seasons
The surprising arrival of Balki Bartokomous (Bronson Pinchot) from the island Mypos to his cousin’s bachelor pad (Mark Linn-Baker) infringes upon “coosin” Larry’s newfound privacy as the two bond and learn from each other’s cultures.
The spinoff: Family Matters, (1989-1997): 9 Seasons
The lives of police officer Carl Winslow (Reginald VelJohnson) and his family are turned on their heads when they open their home to hip, street-smart Mother Winslow (Rosetta LeNoire), with frequent visitations by nerdy nuisance neighbor, Steve Urkel (Jaleel White).
How did it become a spinoff? Harriette Winslow (JoMarie Payton) worked at the Chicago Chronicle newspaper where Larry and Balki went to work in 1987. Her husband, Carl, was a police officer who appeared in the Perfect Strangers episode, “Crimebusters.” (A bit of small trivia: Larry and Balki were originally planned to have appeared in the pilot episode of Family Matters before it was cut.)
What made it so successful? Did somebody ask, “Did I do that?” The initial idea was for an African-American family comedy revolving around the Winslows. But ratings for the spinoff were nothing to write home about until the appearance of Jaleel White as the nerdy neighbor, Urkel.
The origin show: Cheers (1982-1993), 11 Seasons
Former baseball pitcher and alcoholic Sam Malone (Ted Danson) took ownership of Cheers, a neighborhood Boston bar, working with and serving some of Boston’s funniest personalities.
The spinoff: Frasier, (1993-2004): 11 Seasons
Psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane (Kelsey Grammer) left Boston to go back to his hometown of Seattle, taking a job as a radio shrink. But Frasier’s hopes for enjoying his new life were impeded upon by his father (John Mahoney) who needed to move in with Crane due to his recent physical impairment.
How did it become a spinoff? Frasier was among the regular barflies at Cheers, whose personal problems with his wife Lilith Sternin (Bebe Neuwirth) often drove him to the bar — and eventually to Seattle after their divorce.
What made it so successful? With Cheers ending its eleven season run, fans were thrilled to be able to follow one of their most beloved characters and to meet his father Martin, his brother Niles (David Hyde Pierce), and caretaker Daphne (Jane Leeves), all of whom became beloved sitcom stars as a result.
The origin show: All In the Family (1971-1979), 9 Seasons
Focusing on the Bunker family and its bigoted patriarch, Archie Bunker (Carroll O’Connor), All in the Family was groundbreaking television about an old-school hothead confronted by his new-school daughter (Sally Struthers) and son-in-law (Rob Reiner).
The spinoff: The Jeffersons, (1975-1985): 11 Seasons
George and Louise “Weezy” Jefferson move to an affluent high-rise apartment building, and find that success does not solve the problems of parenting, crazy neighbors and life in New York.
How did it become a spinoff? The Jeffersons moved in next door to the Bunkers in season one, and lived there for the first five seasons of All In the Family. As George’s dry cleaning business became more successful, the Jeffersons “moved on up” out of Queens to the east side — and into their own hit show.
What made it so successful? The idea that a wildly different collection of neighbors could come together to create a fairly traditional sitcom held great appeal with viewers.
The origin show: Love, American Style (1969-1974), 5 Seasons
A popular show that presented a collection of shorts about love in the good old US of A.
The spinoff: Happy Days, (1974-1984): 11 Seasons
Set in the 1950s, this sitcom centered around the Cunningham family and friends, including Fonzie, a loveable greaser renting the apartment over their garage.
How did it become a spinoff? The short “Love and the Television Set” from Love, American Style was tapped to become its own TV show by producer Garry Marshall.
What made it so successful? The Cunninghams, Fonzie, and all the regular characters on the show became extended members of our own families, visiting most American households every Friday evening, right after suppertime.
The origin show: Dallas (1978-1991), 14 Seasons
Larry Hagman starred as oil tycoon J.R. Ewing, whose infinite schemes became a recurring touch point for multi-plot this CBS primetime saga.
The spinoff: Knots Landing, (1993-1997, 2011): 14 Seasons
Reformed alcoholic Gary Ewing (Ted Shackelford) and his girlfriend (Joan Van Ark) were one of four couples living in a housing development known as Knots Landing.
How did it become a spinoff? Gary, the younger brother of J.R. Ewing, knowing he could never live up to his father Jock Ewing’s unreasonable expectations, split from Texas to start anew on a southern California cul-de-sac.
What made it so successful? Gary may have been looking to escape the drama of Dallas, but quickly found himself mired in soapy plots, labyrinthine sub-plots, and juicy cliffhangers that kept viewers hooked for 14 years.
The origin show: The Tracey Ullman Show (1987-1990), 4 Seasons
British comedian Tracey Ullman landed on American primetime with a variety show of sketch comedy, song-and-dance routines, and animated vignettes.
The spinoff: The Simpsons, (1989-present): 26 Seasons
A cartoon about a middle-class family in Springfield, The Simpsons follows a traditional sitcom format while simultaneously satirizing popular culture.
How did it become a spinoff? Most people know that the Simpsons were featured in animated shorts (as in, short cartoons, not “eat my shorts”) on Fox’s The Tracey Ullman Show, but many don’t realize that there were 48 shorts in all. Wildly popular, Homer, Marge, Maggie, Lisa, and Bart moved into their own Fox series with the same voice actors.
What made it so successful? In the early days of The Simpsons, the show focused on the dysfunction of the nuclear family (especially between Homer and Bart), a fresh perspective on TV in 1989 — especially in animation. But it’s the never-ending supply of pop culture jokes, inside references, and oddball Springfield residents that has kept the show going for over two decades.